Dr. Delaney Ruston – Today my focus is on talking about phone time — and overall tech time — with our kids in a chatty, conversational way that doesn’t trigger a defensive reaction, and it’s about the pull that screen time has on us, the ADULTS. We all know this is by design; all types of tech companies (social, gaming, Netflix, YouTube, etc.) do a lot to keep adults and youth hooked on their platforms with persuasive tech designs.
Why focus on adults today? Teens have told me they get frustrated that so much focus is directed at them around being hooked to screens. They know issues around persuasive tech affect all of us.
This frustration often manifests as defensiveness. Just the other day, I was giving a talk, and a father mentioned how he had been trying so hard to get his teen daughter to watch the documentary, Social Dilemma, but she would have no part of it. He explained that his daughter was defensive about her social media use and thus did not want to see a film that looked at its darker sides.
To show our kids and teens that this is truly affecting all of us, I am passing on examples adults have recently shared with me about the tech temptations they struggle with and ways they try to resist.
The intention of this blog is not only to offer you examples that might help you but also to offer examples you can share with your youth.
Let me start with me.
Today I asked Tessa what I had told her regarding any tech pull. She mentioned the one I have regarding being pulled by the videos that YouTube feeds me with top actors in them — think interviews on late-night shows or with Ellen, for example. She couldn’t recall any strategies I use to prevent going down that rabbit hole if I am trying to get work done. Good time to talk about this…
I told her,
- I don’t have a kryptonite vest that makes me “actor-interview proof,” even though I wish I did.
- I wish there were a way to have my YouTube page not place all the pictures of other tempting videos right on the screen.
- I said if she ever finds a way to please, PLEASE let me know. After all, the best way to resist an undesired temptation is to not have it there in the first place.
- I told her that my primary strategy is to work really hard not to glance at the suggested videos. I literally turn my head to the side or squint my eyes to keep myself from looking at them.
- The other thing I do is decide to take a break and indulge in some interviews. I am pretty good at telling myself how long I can watch for — I will say, ok, I will take a 5-minute break, or 10-minute break — whatever it is. This precommitment helps me stay on track about 80% of the time. It’s not perfect but not too shabby.
Here are other examples from other folks I queried.
One woman told me:
“I check IG way too much. Mindlessly, looking for something fun to come in via DM. And watching the number of “likes” grow. I push it away as soon as I can, but it might be ten or more minutes. And reels can reel me in. I get enjoyment out of watching babies learn to walk and cat antics.
I did finally move my phone away from the side of my bed so that I would not be tempted to look something up in the middle of the night. I immediately slept better. It took me years to do that.“ — Janet, from CA.
Another woman told me she was feeling really pulled by her news apps, such as CNN and NYT, In order to not be so tempted by them, she moved them off her phone’s home page. This small act made a pretty big difference. Sallie from WA
Another person emailed me,
“Binge-watching Spanish language series is a pull for me. I tell myself I am listening to and learning Spanish slang. I can stay up really late watching episode after episode when I know I need to sleep. In order to stop myself, I have to become involved with a healthier substitute that is not addicting like a book or an evening class or event.” — Patricia from WA
A friend’s husband said,
“I recently took the Twitter app off the home screen of my phone. I would spend way too much time scrolling through news which spiked my cortisol. When I have to work harder to open Twitter, I use it with more intention, for answering questions and less doom scrolling.” — Sam from CA
Here is one final thing. One woman told me how she uses Apple Screen Time to set limits on her own social media use. The problem is when the time is up and the app asks if she wants 15 more minutes, she, like so many people, often says “Yes,” despite her original intentions.
She recently heard about a time management app that, instead of just requiring hitting a button to get 15 additional minutes, it requires you to write a sentence about why you want that extra time. She thinks having to stop and have that active moment of reflection – “Why do I want this extra time?” — would help her resist more often. The problem is she can’t recall the name of the app. If anyone knows an app that does this, please let me know, and I will pass it on to her and all of you in a future blog.
Ideas for conversation starters:
- Consider asking your child if you have ever told them what tech time things pull you, and what have you told them regarding strategies to resist?
- Use an example from above, or one of your own, to talk about how adults try to manage the pulls they feel.
- Tell them about the time management app that requires you to write a sentence to extend time, and then challenge them to please find it for you. *The great thing is they will see how many such apps are out there. And, the reason why? Because we need help!